It’s dawn on Cape Cod. It’s a slight overcast with a small twinge of saltwater and rotten low tide in your nose. I usually have a rough time sleeping the night before a big dive like today. My mind is already under the waves of the Atlantic as I toss in my bed I guess. I pulled up to the small beach where we are going to launch, right next to a picturesque New England fishing village. Small gingerbread style homes complete with the typical ‘shabby-chique’ signage for lobsters, bait or clam chowder. I’m waiting on my dive buddies, Alex and Kristoff, to arrive. Seagulls are my only company – with a slight laugh every once in a while at their comrades antics in the sky.
I have to relax. It’s my first day in the commercial spearfishing business, and we’re only using our kayaks. We have done our homework and found a perfect spot: we found an old shipwreck about a two hour paddle offshore. It’s teeming with the fish we need: Tautog. It’s a delicious and frankly, underrated seafood. I also know for a fact that large predatory sharks have been found in the area, from Blue Sharks to the dreaded Great White Shark, have been sighted at this shipwreck. I have to trust in my buddies, my abilities and keep on alert.
I take my new Ocean Kayak Big Game II off the roof. It’s the perfect kayak for me. This kayak has a 600 pound weight capacity – and this is going to be tested today. It’s just about 13 feet long and my favorite color – yellow - makes me really visible on the water, which is very important in the deep blue sea. As I lay my kayak down on the cool sand I see Alex and Kristoff show. Each has their own car with their own boats on the roof. We informally go over the plan for the day and suit up.
I pack three spear guns. Each one is a different size because of how varied the visibility can be under the water. The better the visibility, the longer the gun you use. Luckily, the Big Game II has a rod-pod, which is perfect for sliding the spear guns and fins into the boat. This keeps them off the deck where they could get knocked overboard. Since my kayak is the only one which has a 600lbs weight capacity, I volunteered to be the “Cargo Hauler” meaning all the fish caught will be stored inside my kayak.
Once we launched we let the tide push us out to sea. The vast sand flats are exposed on both sides of us. We slide over inches of water on our way further out to sea. We like to crack jokes and laugh on our paddle out – makes the time go by faster. There’s a little fog out this morning, but I have my GPS handy in case it gets too soupy. We’re the only ones on the water. There’s no boat traffic, no wind. It’s deadly quiet as we pull up to the pulverized shipwreck in a grey sea.
“I hate diving new places!” Alex yells as he jumps overboard. I quickly followed him – we have to stay together in case the “Man in the Grey Suit” decides to make an entrance. I have to say I have the most stable kayak made – it’s perfect for a diving platform. Kristoff decided to rest on his kayak, mauling a sandwich as he bobs slightly in the swell. The tide is slowing down as we reach the wreck – we begin seeing jagged warped pieces of iron and steel protruding out into the soft green ocean. Alex takes his last breath and sinks into the depths. I am waiting on the surface now, slowly scanning the mangled metal corpse. Then I hear a soft “Plink” in the water. “Alex must have taken a shot at something!” Sure enough here he comes, holding a black and white “Chinner” Tautog. Perfect.
“Alright, seventy-nine fish to go!” I said as Alex began swimming back to my kayak. Kristoff sees Alex’s fish and throws his sandwich below and begins getting his fins and mask on. I smile. Alright, it’s my turn. I begin slowly breathing deeper and deeper. I take my last breath, push myself over and dive. I get to the bottom next to the wreck. It’s settled on sand, surrounded by oyster, clam and mussel shells – this is a great sign. Tautog love eating shellfish. As I sit motionless on the bottom I begin making out moving shadows and shapes. It’s about eight feet of visibility – which is good by New England diving standards, more than enough to hunt. Then I see them – a small school of five Tautog, there is a couple Black Sea Bass near them as well, just hovering above the bottom. I slowly bring up my spear gun, looking down the spear’s shaft – I line up with the large one further away, almost out of view. With a slight lead I pulled the trigger, releasing the spear into the abyss.
I see the arrow hit its mark! The fish begins spinning and battling, it’s a fight now. I drop the spear gun and rush the fish, grabbing its gills and wrestling the fish into submission. These fish don’t go down without rough and tumble combat. My lungs are screaming for air as I push off the bottom and reach the surface. I hold up the fish to Kristoff screaming “There’s a big school over here!” He replied with “There’s everywhere!!!” We hit them perfectly – our hard work and patience have paid off!
One by one, we begin filling the kayak up. I watch the Sun move across the sky; slowly the tide is getting stronger and stronger again. We are running out of time. The current is creating more and more difficult visibility under the surface. We have to hold onto the wreck itself to keep us in place and wait for our quarry to swim by now. The visibility is closing in; we are working in about six feet now. I take a dive and head for the bottom. While I am on the way down I begin to see the bottom materialize; there’s a group of fish right in front of me! I bring up the spear gun but it’s too late: the fish spot me and scatter. Discouraged, I move around the bow of the mangled shipwreck and see group of rather large and unsuspecting Blackfish…not discouraged anymore! I fire into the crowd and pull back another fish.
I have to take a break and tend to the fish already in the kayak. I Open the front hatch and begin sliding fish inside the kayak. Whoa! There is already fish inside here. The guys must be doing well. Go Team! I look over at my GPS, it is 2pm. I tell the guys we have to get going – we still have to paddle back inshore and get these fish to market. I wave over Alex, but we can seem to see Kristoff, suddenly he leaps out of the water and lays across my Big Game II… “Perfect picture!” yells Alex as he snaps away. The kayak now has two hundred pounds of fish and two-two hundred pound divers on it. Dang this kayak can reach the extremes.
Kristoff jumps back onto his kayak as we paddle back to shore. The kayak is plowing through the seas, tearing through the waves as we are headed back to port. We finally reach the beach and I am already feeling tired. But we still have to load up the coolers and get the fish to market in New Bedford, Massachusetts, about two hours away. I throw off my wetsuit and bring the cooler down to the boat. We apparently already have a crowd. Curious beachgoers have looked at our catch and cannot believe that spearfishing is done in New England at all, not to mention the catch we have caught today AND we did it all out of kayaks. We hastily throw the gear in the trucks, fish into coolers and head to market.
The Sun is setting as we leave the fish market. I am exhausted. But it was all worth it. It was a lot of fun being able to go to a new place in the vast ocean and hunt someplace new. Diving to me is the most adventurous thing a person can do. I am just happy I have the best kayak on the market, it’s the only kayak that will handle the high seas, the flat calm, the high weight capacity, comfort and stability. I urge anyone who wants to kayak dive to get an Ocean Kayak Big Game II.
Stay Fishy My Friends.